Thursday, January 22, 2009

CIRM Makes a YouTube Move

The California stem cell agency has joined YouTube, an Internet video-sharing service used by millions worldwide.

CIRM, the world's largest source of funding for hESC research, hooked up with YouTube on Jan. 15 with videos of California scientists talking about their research. Since then, 259 videos have been watched, as of this writing. Currently CIRM appears to have 28 different videos on the site.

The service is called CIRMTV, and it is part of CIRM's expanding PR effort. On Tuesday, CIRMTV keyed off the Obama inauguration with a four-minute video of CIRM President Alan Trounson and UC San Francisco researcher Susan Fisher (see photo) discussing the likely impact of the new president.

The inaugural video currently has the highest number of views, 109, with one of Hans Kierstad of UC Irvine coming up in second with 76 views, outstripping UC San Diego's Catriona Jamieson, who had 57, and Stanford's Irv Weissman, who had 48.

As always with the Internet, the main problem is how to build traffic. CIRM needs lots of links to the site to build viewership along with comments on the material from outside sources, ranging from print publications to other Internet sites. However, stem cell research has limited general appeal considering the other matters on YouTube, and it is unrealistic to expect massive numbers.

Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, reports that CIRMTV has "zero outside cost" and requires "minimal staff time."

The same videos can be seen on the CIRM web site. In our case, the YouTube version loaded and played smoothly while the CIRM site stalled repeatedly. There could be a host of reasons for that, ranging from server capacity to video quality to the bandwidth of our connection.

Normally the videos cannot be downloaded for viewing later when you are not connected to the Internet. But Wikipedia reports that free software can be downloaded to provide that capability.

On Tuesday, CIRM also devoted a good chunk of its home page to the inauguration, featuring both the Trounson-Fisher video and a link to a two-page statement on the impact of Obama's expected stem cell moves.

For more on California state government uses of YouTube, see this piece by Daniel Wood of the Christian Science Monitor.

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